What Goes Around, Comes Around
Written by: Leo Lawton
I hadn’t been home for a couple of months. Home being where my folks lived way up in northern New York I mean, as I was in the Navy at the time and stationed in this little out-of-the-way place called Chincoteague, Virginia. I was thinkin about putting enough cash together for a trip up there, but you know how it is, in the military money is always sorta scarce.
I had made the jaunt, like I said, a couple of months earlier, for Christmas. At the time I had found two guys who also wanted to go up that way, and by asking them to kick in ten bucks apiece we had enough for the round trip. Well it was almost enough, and would have been, but this one joker never paid me, so I came up a little short. You see, I had this little ‘51 Studebaker, when most single sailors couldn’t afford a car. I wasn’t no financial wizard, I had won the doggone thing in a crap game, and it was a good little car too.
I had a brother lived up in Syracuse that worked for the Seven-Up company. I had taken a Greyhound home a few months before, and stopped off to visit with Bob on the way back south. While I was there, I went to work with him one day, where I just sorta hung out. One of the bosses handed me this pair of dice that they gave away for advertising. They were green, but clear. You could see right through them. You’ve probably seen lots of dice that looked just like ’em. These was a bit special though. One die had only fives on it, on all sides, while the other had nothing but twos. Every time you threw ‘em they showed seven-up, which was quite an advertising gimmick. I’d sometimes toss ‘em out when there were a few guys around. Sooner or later someone would notice they were coming up seven every time. Everyone thought they were “loaded.” Yet you could look right through them and see they weren’t. Not a soul ever figured them out.
I got into this crap game one night, and I was down a few bucks, and didn’t have much more to work with. It came my turn to roll them cubes, and I slipped mine into the game for a few passes. Next thing I knew, I owned this little Studebaker coupe. I figured I was doin all them guys a favor. They had to learn somehow that it ain’t right to gamble.
Well anyway, I was doing my job one day when this same guy, who never paid me for that trip, walks up to me and wants to know if I’d like to go to New York for the weekend. Now one has to play it cagey in these kinds of deals, so I just sorta brushed him off, letting him know I couldn’t afford it, without reminding him he never paid me for the last trip. He kept bugging me about it for two or three days, finally telling me he had lined up three other guys too. Each would pay me ten bucks for the round trip, and as it wouldn’t cost that much I was making money and would get home free too. He even suddenly remembers he still owes me the ten bucks and dropped that into his argument.
Now, like I said, I ain’t no financial wizard, but I can figure out that I’m being offered fifty bucks to go to New York for the weekend, which I was sorta thinkin of doin anyway, and it don’t take no rocket scientist to know this is a pretty good offer. Now I got to the delicate part of the negotiation, and asked just when I could expect to have the cash in my hands. Andy tells me that he doesn’t have the money right at the exact moment, but he’ll check with these other guys and see what they can do. After a while he comes up to me sorta sheepish and asks if I might have enough cash to get us all home. Then each of them will have their share when we meet for the return trip.
Well, like I said, I been burned once before by this guy, but certainly they can’t all be as bad as him, so I figure things will work out okay. Comes Friday night we all pile into the little Studie, and off we go. Now just to let you know how things was at the time, there had been a number of car accidents where sailors had got hurt bad. To help stop this, they had put limits on how far we could travel in a given time. Over a weekend, we couldn’t be more than two hundred and fifty miles away from the Base. Now, of course, most everyone knows rules is only made to be broken, so we headed off up into New York. When I arrived home I’d be about seven hundred and fifty miles from the Base, but I wasn’t going to tell anybody, so no problem that I could see.
Chincoteague is way down on the Delmarva Peninsula for those of you who never heard of the place, so’s we headed north toward Wilmington on US 13. Now this was in February, but it was a beautiful evening when we took off. We made it through Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, with the little Studie just a hummin along like a little Singer sewing machine. Next thing you know, I was gassing up and pulling out onto the North-South branch of the Pennsy Turnpike and headin for Scranton. I was remarkin to Andy how I loved these new super-highways. I guess I didn’t tell you, this was in ‘58 and the Interstate’s wasn’t even dreamed of yet.
We gets to Scranton, I pays my fare for the turnpike, and we grabbed US 11 and was on our way to Binghamton. If you ain’t familiar with that highway, it goes from New Orleans to Rouses’s Point in the top corner of New York. I been every inch of it, one time or another. Somewhere in there I passed that “Welcome to New York” sign. It always seems like I’ve sorta arrived home when I see that, even if I do still have another two hundred and twenty-five miles to go. I sorta get a little lump in my throat each time. By now we’re runnin into some little snow squalls here and there.
I make it into Binghamton, and drop Andy off at a bar where we agree to meet again Sunday afternoon for the return trip. I go forty miles outta my way to drop off one of them guys in Ithaca. Then I heads for Auburn to drop off the last two, before heading on home, still another hundred and fifty miles to go. By this time I’m getting pelted with snow pretty good though, and wondering how smart it is to go much further north. The radio is spittin out warnings of a major storm all over the east coast. If I go past the snow belt between Pulaski and Watertown, I may not be able to get back down through on Sunday, and I’d be five hundred miles further than where I’m supposed to be. It’ll be hard to explain that one, if I don’t make it back on time. The Navy frowns on that sorta thing.
Common sense, which sometimes I don’t have a lot of, tells me don’t go. My brother still lives in Syracuse, where I can put up for the weekend, so I heads on over to his place for a visit.
Along in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday I heads back south toward Binghamton to pick up all four of them guys. Our agreement was to all meet at that same bar where I’d dropped Andy off. I gets there about a quarter to five, and sure enough all of them is sittin at the bar waitin for me. They’re havin a beer whilst they wait, of course. I asked for my fifty bucks, so’s I could go gas up for the return trip. I was near onto flat broke, and the Studie was runnin on fumes by this time. Not a one of them guys has got any more’n what’s layin on the bar, which was change from buyin their beer. I see’s the lay of the land, and says “Wait for me,” and I heads for a telegraph office that I had spotted a coupla blocks away.
I asks the operator to send a message to my mother asking for twenty bucks immediately. He tells me that it would be faster if I telephoned her collect and told her myself, and the telegraph office is closing at five which is only about ten minutes away. I runs across the street to a pay phone, calls mom, who thinks I’m in Virginia, and tells her what I want, and hurry. There’s one good thing about moms. They don’t question their sons when there is that sense of urgency in their voices. Mom says, she’ll wire it through as soon as she can locate someone to take it to town. Now I hadn’t thought about that one yet. My folks live on a farm about five miles from their local Western Union, my mom don’t drive, and my dad works Sundays. I walk back across the street to the telegraph office, knowing it is almost impossible for anyone near home to make it to town and wire the money through to me. I don’t have gas enough to drive back to Syracuse to ask my brother for a loan. What to do? Maybe I could phone Bob in Syracuse, and he could bring twenty bucks down to me. Time is passing, I’m five hundred miles away from my Base yet, and fourteen hours to get back there. It’s a certain court martial if I don’t make it.
I walks back into the telegraph office sort of dejected and thinkin a mile a minute about what to do. The operator says “Here’s your money.” I mean, like, I was sorta flabbergasted. I don’t think it had been a minute since I hung up the phone from talking to mom. This was impossible. How could they? There’s something I learned a long time ago. Don’t fight success. My home town, being on the small side, everybody knows everybody else. My mom knew the local telegraph operator who wired the money through when mom called and asked her to. Once mom had her boy on his way, she got the money taken into town. Simple.
I thanked that man like it was him that pulled off a miracle, and I was outta there. I drove to a station, filled up my faithful Studie and pulled out onto highway eleven. Before mornin I wheeled in through the gate at the Base back in Chincoteague. A couple of hours of sleep, and it was up-and-at-‘em for the day. I heard later there was four guys missed muster that mornin.